Herb Walk Around Pevensey Castle, May 2011

Herbs and History

I may have mentioned before, that the wind always blows by the seaside.

Well the day we went to do our herb walk at Pevensey Castle, just outside Eastbourne, the wind was very definitely blowing which made the sound recorded on the video come out like a “hounds of the Baskervilles” take.

We went to look at the Pellitory, which grows on the walls of the castle and the lime trees growing in Westham churchyard adjacent to the castle, in the next village along.

Pellitory climbing castle wall

Pevensey Castle was originally built by the Romans and the Roman walls are pretty much in tact all the way around. It was in the bay a short distance from the Roman Castle, (not Hastings) that the Normans landed in 1066 and built the first Norman castle inside the Roman walls, using the walls as part of the castle construction. Next door to the castle, in the village of Westham, is a church reputed to be the first ever church built by the Normans.
We are always astounded that the site is not constantly overrun by tourists as it is of such historical significance, but it seems to be a bit of a secret tourist attraction.
Many plants grow on the Roman walls which are constructed from flint, with tile layers interspersed, I presume to act as a damp proof course.
The plants I have seen at various times on the walls include, wallflowers, plantain, grasses, stonecrop, red Valerian and of course the Pellitory.
A short distance from the Norman part of the castle, inside the Roman walls is a huge bank of nettles which is fitting as it was the Romans who originally brought the nettles to England, to flail their joints in the cold weather (the Romans were a bit strange but we mustn’t knock them as they left us a legacy of fantastic heating and sewage systems).
Walking through the castle grounds and out through the west gate you immediately enter the village of Westham where the church is.
It is called St Mary’s and is a beautiful church. Behind the church, in the old part of the churchyard, are three magnificent lime trees.

You can complete the walk by turning left at the lime trees and going straight ahead through the newer part of the churchyard which leads to a path taking you behind the castle.

Lime Tree in Westham Churchyard

This is quite interesting as it gives you a good view of how the Norman castle was incorporated into the Roman walls. At the time the Romans landed, the sea came right up to that area and in fact Pevensey is one of the Cinque Ports now left high and dry.
You will find a write up of Lime flower and Pellitory in the herbs section and I will do a more in depth talk on Nettles in another video.

Linda Bostock
Medical herbalist

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